Article Review

Posted November 19, 2009 by Loren Loiseau
Categories: BADM 720 - Organizational Behavior

Sounds of Silence

Two things caught my attention from this article:  individuals desire to have control over their immediate environment, and problems will accumulate to the point where they can no longer be hidden when discussing negative issues is forbidden.

As the article points out, fear is a major component of a silent organization.  Management fears employees who might point out some flaw in their leadership and employees fear what they don’t know.

Changing Others Through Changing Ourselves

The article cites the fact that 3/4 of TQM efforts have failed to achieve results and suggests that the reason for the failures is the failure to change the culture behind the processes.  The big blocker: company executives also need to make certain changes to enable changes they require from the rest of the organization.

Edward Deming would rarely if ever work directly with a company unless the board of directors would meet with him first.  He acted this way based on his insight that culture and process changes must be top-down.  If the company leaders were not willing to make changes, Deming knew that no effort to change would be successful.


Case: The Men’s Wearhouse

Posted November 19, 2009 by Loren Loiseau
Categories: BADM 720 - Organizational Behavior

From Graduate School of Business Stanford University.

Men’s Wearhouse is a great example of how setting the right priorities and promoting a healthy organizational culture can lead to success in a declining industry that has established players.  This case refutes two notions:  it does not make sense to enter a market that is not growing, and company culture does not impact the company’s profits.

When George Zimmer founded Men’s Wearhouse, the men’s clothing “space” was already crowded.  The case does not say why he founded the store, however his father was also in the retailing business and eventually started his own company.  When Zimmer founded his store, he decided to build a culture of servant leadership and defined the following order of importance for stakeholders:  employees, customer, vendors, communities.

Since Zimmer focused his attention on employees, the employees would then have much better performance for the company.  Men’s Wearhouse is a great source of ideas for how to develop company culture.

HBS Case: Treadway Tire Company

Posted November 12, 2009 by Loren Loiseau
Categories: BADM 720 - Organizational Behavior

Treadway became concerned about costs associated with high turnover of foreman positions in one of its tire plants.  Plant operations were directed by a plant manager several supervisors.  The line foremen worked for the supervisors.  Work expectations were communicated in terms of daily production quotas (called forecasts) and punitive action was taken if quotas were not met.

The results of a survey indicated that the foremen were not trained or prepared for their responsibilities upon assuming the foreman role.  The lack of preparedness led to mishandling of various situations, causing strife with/between hourly workers and lost production time.

The real problem in this case is the use of quotas.  Quotas caused line foreman to delay production line repairs until the next shift so that the next shift would take the production hit.  This behavior meant that the first thing foreman would have to do is take care of “presents” left by the previous shift, thereby delaying the start of the current shift.  Most likely delaying equipment maintainance made the maintainance cost and time increase.  The other problem with quotas is that employees are punished for normal process variations, leaving them feeling helpless to assert control.  The helplessness led to low morale and high turnover.

While foreman training is an issue, the issue of the negative behavior induced by quotas is most likely the primary cause of low morale, high turnover and higher maintainance costs.

HBR Case Study: The Layoff

Posted November 6, 2009 by Loren Loiseau
Categories: BADM 720 - Organizational Behavior

What’s the best way to downsize?  There are many options:  across the board pay cuts, first in first out, last in first out, cut entire unit among others.  The problem is that there is no easy way and no one will be happy with the decision.

This case talks about a company needing to cut significant costs quickly.  The most intriguing point of the article is that company management did not have a clear policy on what to do in this case.  A policy would have been a great tool to direct the downsizing and at the same time company employees would understand the process.  No one likes change, especially during layoffs, however communication and planning are very effective tools to make the change easier to handle.

Article Review

Posted November 6, 2009 by Loren Loiseau
Categories: BADM 720 - Organizational Behavior

This review covers four articles about leadership.  A common thread of the article is what sort of character a good leader possesses.

Lt. John Withers

This article is about how Army Lt John Withers broke Army rules by allowing his unit to hide and take care of a couple of Holocaust survivors at the end of WWII.  His decision was based on compassion and the belief that these two young men would be better off with his unit.  Lt Withers’s decision built a strong bond between his unit and the two survivors. In the end, Lt Withers did not suffer negative consequences from his decision.

Colonel Dowdy

Col. Joe Dowdy faced a tough decision between men and mission.  This is a common military dilemma where a commander must weigh risk to the soldiers against risk to completing the mission.  In this case, Dowdy decided to slow and pause his progress to Bagdad in order to make sure that the risk to his marines was reasonable.  While Dowdy acted within the bounds of his discretion, his commanding officer believed his judgement was flawed and Dowdy lost his command.  Dowdy made a decision based on his own principles even though the consequences were very painful.

Steven Covey on Servant Leadership

Steven Covey talks about a servant approach to Leadership.  With this approach, a leader works with the team helping them accomplish their goals.  By working as a teammate rather than a dictator, the leader is able to share knowledge and guide results.

WSJ: Good Leadership Requires Executives To Put Themselves Last

This article looks at Michael Leven’s decision at US Franchise Systems to go public with the fact that the company was not going to meet its earnings targets.  The decision ultimately cost him is job.

Leven’s decision was based on his own sense of ethics which required him to be forthright with the shareholders of the company.  He was not legally required to provide the information.  As it turns out, the company eventually filed for bankruptcy and a couple of the owners were convicted of fraud.  This is a good example how it is a bad idea to be involved with shady people.

Case Study: Gary Loveman and Harrah’s Entertainment

Posted October 30, 2009 by Loren Loiseau
Categories: BADM 720 - Organizational Behavior

Reference: Stanford Graduate School of Business, CASE OB-45

This case describes the evolution of Harrah’s just before to some time after Gary Loveman was hired as COO and then CEO.  Phil Satre picked Loveman to be COO and ultimately succeed himself as CEO.  It was an unpopular decision but became a very successful one.

Loveman has a couple of interesting strategies.  First, he says that the shareholders own the company jobs, not the people filling them.  It is management’s job to make sure the most effective people are in each position.  This principle led to Loveman terminating several people who were perceived to be successful but were not the most effective people available for the respective positions.

Loveman also focused much attention on understanding the customers and acting to provide customers the value they most appreciated.  To accomplish this, Loveman researched customer behavior and other attributes and made changes based on insights from the research.  The insights were good ones and the changes were effective in dramatically increasing customer loyalty and the over all top line of the business.

Article: The Dean’s Disease

Posted October 29, 2009 by Loren Loiseau
Categories: BADM 720 - Organizational Behavior


This article talks about how power creates strong psychological changes in people, in the case focusing on college deans.  It gives some very good advice on selecting deans that will not abuse their power and also has great points for an individual to follow to not let power go to their head.

One of my pet peeves is saying power changes people.  It really allows a person the freedom to become who they choose to be.  In other words, power does not change the person, it only changes their behavior.  The article backs this up when it provide very effective principles to evaluate potential deans.  The author’s advice is to not choose someone who will behave badly once they achieve a position of power.  The author contradicts his earlier assessment that power changes the person psychologically.